The goal of Prof. Jennifer Blouin’s class on Taxes and Business Strategy isn’t to make students tax experts. Instead, she wants students to develop a framework for understanding how taxes affect business decisions.
“Anyone in business is going to deal with tax issues at some point whether they want to sell a business, buy a business, or run an organization. Taxes are a fifth of the bottom line. I want students to have the language they need to be comfortable at the table when tax issues are discussed and understand the tradeoffs of going in one direction versus another,” she said.
We recently talked with Prof. Blouin to get inside insight into her class and an update on the research she’s doing on taxation.
Is your Taxes and Business Strategy elective a technical class?
Prof. Blouin: We talk about the economics as well as the numbers behind tax issues, so it is a technical class because tax is technical in nature. However, I give students an explanation of the intuition behind the taxation, so they better understand the issue and the tradeoffs of different decisions.
The class focus is on linking tax strategies with concepts from corporate finance, financial accounting, business law, and economics. Taxes are everywhere, and it pays to have some understanding of them. People who understand how these rules work and how they interact with other business decisions have a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
How do you bring in real-world examples to class?
I use a mixture of lecture, case studies, problem sets, and discussions. I always bring in real-world examples that students may have read about in the newspaper. We talk about the rules behind that particular tax issue to illustrate the impact of tax structure on earnings and cash flows.
Does the class talk about personal taxes?
No, this is not a personal tax planning course. However, by popular demand, I have done lunch lectures on retirement savings and those lectures are open to everyone in the EMBA program.
What do you like about teaching EMBA students?
I enjoy teaching EMBA students because they see tax issues in their jobs, and their experience generates a fantastic dialogue. They know taxes are important and are eager to learn. The class is comprised of students from all types of backgrounds: physicians with successful practices, lawyers who have structured transactions, people in private equity who have seen sophisticated tax issues on the operations side, entrepreneurs setting up businesses, people running family businesses, etc. Students bring a richness to the discussion that is extremely rewarding. I feel like I learn something from students too – it doesn’t get better than that.
You teach your course on both the Philadelphia and San Francisco campus. What is it like teaching on the West Coast?
The students are exceptional on both campuses. The main difference in San Francisco is that I don’t feel rushed to get back to my office to address departmental issues or home to deal with my family’s schedule. When you’re on the San Francisco campus, you spend more time informally chatting in the hallways and at meals with students. And the facility is gorgeous. You can’t top the view from my office in San Francisco.
— Meghan Laska
Posted: May 14, 2019